On Goldfrapp’s sixth studio album, the duo attempt to replicate a sound and style first explored on the underwhelming Seventh Tree. The mercurial album was one of the more surprising musical packages of 2008, delivering beats that felt somewhat alien, somewhat untried, somewhat unpleasant, and utterly underwhelming. Enforcing a strict ‘No Electro-Glam’ policy, in its place, Goldfrapp introduced a set of tranquil vibes and a plethora of reverb driven pedals. Ever since joining forces, experimenting with various approaches has been paramount in establishing them as one of the most unique groups around. The experimental approach is a tactic that has delivered mixed results as previous releases will attest to. Striking gold with the perpetual disco of Supernature, Goldfrapp have also experienced frustration with the aforementioned Seventh Tree.
However, Tales of Us feels like an attempt at redemption for the sins encountered on Seventh Tree. Adopting a clearly folk influenced attitude, Goldfrapp’s new record is a tantalizing affair. Fragile and restless, their latest drop is just as poignant as the idealistic themes it fixates upon. A definite improvement on 2008’s inauspicious endeavour, so much of the duo’s inimitable imagination is supported by an orthodoxy that feels wholly appropriate. Even on their placid 2000 introduction Felt Mountain the duo never sounded as delectably strung out as they do on Tales of Us. On each of the ten tracks, Alison swoons over alluring acoustics and magnetic synthesisers in that attractive, steamy, repentant way, all the time seducing the listener with that ever so sexy voice.
A hazy, ambiguous atmosphere permeates the record, a penetration so intense that you can almost hear the fog rising and falling through the moonlit countryside. Delving deep into a romanticized concept, English folk full of rhythmic melodies absorb and beguile. “Jo”- laden with a rupture of synth strings – opens the record. Rapidly fading to a composed bass, Alison’s heavenly voice sings, “Heard a shot and someone calling, strained in darkness.”
At its best, the album insinuates an impracticable escape from the tenderly overpowering ambience. Elsewhere, you stagger around, struggling to maintain focus in the vaporous melodies. Largely responsible for delivering soft, persuasive tracks, the album’s only truly explicit rhythm is evident on the tribal resonance of Thea – the slickest sounding of the ten offerings. Boasting all the elegance of a Renaissance cabaret, Tales of Us conceals absolutely nothing: aside from acoustic guitars and some strings, the listener is mesmerized by Alison Goldfrapp’s characteristically evocative vocals. When this modus operandi works, it really works, an exceptionally haunting feeling envelops your very core.
The album’s second single “Annabel” has an eerie fog looming over it, and Goldfrapp’s vocal ability is the guiding light that navigates a way through one of the more notable moments on the record. Alison has been compared to Kate Bush countess times throughout her career, and honestly, this is probably one of the most apathetic evaluations possible. However, with Alison’s iconic delivery on Alvar, one can’t help but draw comparisons. In recent times, Goldfrapp have sporadically veered a little too close to meditative, coffee-sipping-ambience, but Tales of Us is a different entity altogether. This album is imposing, filmic, and arresting in the extreme, highlighting a world of profundity behind the exterior. A soundtrack of simplicity yet sheer elegance, don’t ever mistake delicacy for inadequacy.